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Facebook, Inc. Is Betting Big on Live Video -- Is Periscope Falling Behind?

By Daniel Sparks - Apr 7, 2016 at 12:55PM

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If there was any doubt that Facebook was serious about live video, doubt no longer.

Just a year ago, the idea of live-streaming video on mobile devices was largely unheard of. Indeed, Periscope's live-video streaming app was still under development when the company was gobbled up by Twitter (TWTR 2.68%) last March. But times have changed rapidly. Today, live-streaming video is borderline mainstream, and Facebook's (FB 1.18%) rapid innovation in the space is undermining Periscope's head start.

This week, Facebook continued to beef up its Facebook Live capabilities, giving users a range of new features. Has the larger social network's live video finally surpassed Periscope in features?

Facebook's Live Reactions on live video. Image source: Facebook.

Facebook steps up its live-streaming game
Facebook's endorsement and rollout of live video has been sudden. Following Twitter's launch of Periscope, Facebook jumped into the live streaming game last summer when it launched Facebook Live for public figures. But by the end of last year, the social network began taking its live video mainstream when it took the first steps to roll out live video to everyone. By February of this year, the company had officially made Facebook Live available to most users. Today, Facebook users in more than 60 countries can now share live video.

Facebook's April 6 announcement that it is giving even more live-video features to users confirms just how serious the social network is about its ramp-up of live video.

The newest features for Facebook Live announced this week give users ways to "discover, share, and interact with live video," as a well as the ability "to personalize your live broadcasts."

After April's update for Facebook Live, users can now invite friends to a live stream. Image source: Facebook.

Until now, Facebook users could only go live with all of their friends simultaneously. But Facebook now gives users the ability to go live with specific Groups or Events.

Live in Groups allows you to broadcast to just the people in the Facebook Group -- so you can go live in your family group, or share a workout plan in a fitness group. Live in Events means you can go live from a birthday party to allow those that can't make it to join the fun, and a performer can go live backstage to the people who've RSVP-ed to the event to give them a sneak peak.

In addition, the company introduced "Live Reactions," which enables users to interact with live streams in real-time using its new "Like" button, which features different emojis to choose from, as well as with comments. These Live Reactions are broadcasted on the video in the live stream and replay as they happened when the video is viewed later.

Further, Facebook made it easier for users to discover live videos by introducing a dedicated tab within the Facebook app for finding live and archived live video.

Live video -- the next frontier for lucrative video ads?
As Facebook continues to roll out more features for its live video, it's increasingly clear that Twitter's Periscope will face intense competition.

Image source: Periscope.

Video, as arguably the richest form of media available to social networks, has been a key driver for business among social networks. While Twitter has yet to monetize Periscope in any meaningful way, the company continues to cite native video on Twitter as the primary driver of year-over-year revenue growth on its platform. For Facebook, video ads also remain a key diver of its ad revenue growth.

Initially, live video looked like it could have been Periscope's domain of expertise. But Facebook's ongoing rollout of features for live video, and its continued emphasis of the product, suggests that the much larger social network will soon render Periscope's early days of dominance to be short lived.

Facebook and Twitter have said they will be careful with the way they roll out video ads on their newer and younger social products, such as Faecbook's live videos and its Instagram, and Twitter's Periscope and Vine. Both companies recognize that the user experience needs to come first, and they want to make the rollout of video ads should feel natural to users.

For Facebook and Twitter, video ads on live videos remains mostly an untapped opportunity. Will 2016 be the year these two companies bring their business-driving video ads to live video? And will Facebook officially become the leader in live mobile video this year, surpassing Periscope?

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